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Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae or CPE, are bacteria that normally live harmlessly in the gut. They are not usually a problem unless they enter into other parts of the body like the bladder or bloodstream, where they can cause an infection.

The problem with CPE is that enzymes can be produced and these are resistant to antibiotics. There are only a few such strains but the number is growing.

In 2006, there were only five patients reported to Public Health England as having CPE but this number had increased to over 600 by 2013 and the numbers are increasing. These numbers include those with infections and carriers of CPE. Antibiotic resistance is a big problem and is one of the most significant threats to the safety of patients in Europe.

Public Health England are working to minimise the spread of CPE because if it increases, Doctors will be less able to rely on certain antibiotics, therefore posing a significant risk to public health.

Public Health England has designed a toolkit to increase awareness and help reduce its spread. They mention that there is an increased chance of picking up CPE if you have been a patient in a hospital abroad, or in a UK hospital that has had patients carrying the bacteria, or if you have been in contact with a CPE carrier elsewhere.

If a doctor or nurse suspects a CPE carrier, they will arrange for screening to see if that person is a carrier. Screening usually involves taking a rectal swab or giving a sample of faeces.

Whilst a patient is waiting for the screening result and if they are found to have CPE, they will be kept in a single room with its own toilet facilities. This is to limit the potential for spread of CPE to other people through contaminated faeces.

The most important way for a patient and visitors to reduce the spread of CPE is to regularly wash their hands well with soap and water, especially after going to the toilet.

Patients, visitors and medical staff should avoid touching medical equipment unless necessary and gloves should be worn to prevent cross-contamination. Visitors should be discouraged from using the patient's toilet, sitting on their bed or indeed visiting them if they are unwell.

Patients who have a CPE infection need to be treated with antibiotics, but those who just carry CPE in their gut do not.

When patients get home, there is not usually anything they need to do as an infection would have been treated prior to discharge and will go away in time. Any concerns should then be referred to their GP.